For the love of experience

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Auteur J.M.C. Snel
Titel For the love of experience: changing the experience economy discourse
Promotor R. Maes
Datum 07-09-2011
Jaar 2011
Pagina's 484
ISBN 978-90-8891-308-2
Faculteit Faculteit Economie en Bedrijfskunde
Samenvatting The attention for experiences as economic offerings has increased enormously in the last decade. However, the lack of a clear definition of experience and the bias towards the organization’s perspective in the discourse cause much confusion. In this study experience is taken back to its basis: the encounter between an individual and his or her environment. Different concepts, effects and values of experience are defined to construct a more integrative discourse for the experience economy from the individual’s perspective. To reap the benefits that the experience economy offers, the role of organizations has to change from a directing and controlling one to a more supporting and facilitating one. A true recognition of the co-creation that takes place in experiences shows how much latent potential for creating value there is yet to discover.

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For the love of experience

  1. 1. 2
  2. 2. FOR THE LOVE OF EXPERIENCECHANGING THE EXPERIENCE ECONOMY DISCOURSE ACADEMISCH PROEFSCHRIFT ter verkrijging van de graad van doctor aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam op gezag van de Rector Magnificus prof. dr. D.C. van den Boom ten overstaan van een door het college voor promoties ingestelde commissie, in het openbaar te verdedigen in de Aula der Universiteit op woensdag 7 september 2011, te 13:00 uur door Johanna Maria Christina Snel geboren te Nijmegen 3
  3. 3. PromotiecommissiePromotor: Prof. dr ir R. MaesOverige leden: Prof. dr J.J. Boonstra Dr A. Huizing Prof. dr L. Introna Prof. dr M.W. de Jong Prof. dr A. KlamerFaculteit Economie en Bedrijfskunde© 2011, Anna Snel. All rights reservedISBN: 978-90-8891-308-2Published by Anna Snel (www.annasnel.nl)Printed by Boxpress, OisterwijkCover Design: Zeeman + Beemster, Amsterdam 4
  4. 4. ContentsContents ........................................................................................................................ 5Preface and Acknowledgements.................................................................................. 14CHAPTER 1 Research outline................................................................................... 22 1.1 Introduction and research objective ................................................................. 24 1.2 Research questions............................................................................................ 32 1.3 Structural outline of the thesis........................................................................... 36 1.4 Contributions .................................................................................................... 38CHAPTER 2 Research context.................................................................................. 42 2.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................... 44 2.2 Experiences as a sign of a dematerializing economy ........................................ 46 2.3 Three approaches of the concept of experience ............................................... 54 2.4 Research problem: Experience economy as a means for decommoditization . 67 2.4.1 Bias and gaps in the environment-centred approach of the experience economy.............................................................................................................. 67 2.4.2 Bias and gaps in the effect-centred approach of the experience economy 78 2.4.3 Bias and gaps in the encounter-centred approach of the experience economy.............................................................................................................. 89 2.4.4 Towards a sound and integrative theoretical foundation for the experience economy............................................................................................................ 103CHAPTER 3 Experience concepts in an integrative theory .................................... 108 3.1 Introduction .................................................................................................... 110 3.2 Definitions of experience................................................................................. 111 3.2.1 From secondary to primary experience ................................................... 112 3.2.2 Vicarious experience................................................................................ 119 3.2.3 From primary experience to subjective response..................................... 132 5
  5. 5. 3.2.4 From Erlebnissen to Erfahrungen............................................................ 136 3.2.5 From meaningful experiences to integrative experiences ........................ 146 3.3 Conclusion: The spectrum of Experience-concepts........................................ 150CHAPTER 4 Effects of experience in an integrative theory .................................... 154 4.1 Introduction .................................................................................................... 156 4.2 From hedonic effects towards a broader view on psychological effects .......... 157 4.2.1 Critique on hedonic effects ...................................................................... 159 4.2.2 The eudaimonic alternative for hedonism............................................... 166 4.2.3 The spectrum of psychological effects of experience. .............................. 170 4.3 Limitations of managing effects in general ..................................................... 172 4.3.1 The construction of meaning ................................................................... 174 4.3.2 Problems related to externally directed meaning .................................... 176 4.4 Convergence versus divergence in relation to effects...................................... 182 4.4.1 A broader perspective of convergence ..................................................... 183 4.4.2 Convergence and divergence in the context of creating meaning........... 185 4.4.3 Supporting divergent learning ................................................................. 189 4.5 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 197CHAPTER 5 Values of experience in an integrative theory.................................... 200 5.1 Introduction .................................................................................................... 202 5.2 Appropriateness of traditional theories on value determination in an experience context................................................................................................................... 203 5.2.1 Value as perception minus expectation ................................................... 205 5.2.2 Value as rivalrous and excludable ........................................................... 212 5.2.3 Value invested as cost or as benefit.......................................................... 218 5.2.4 The use of traditional ways of evaluating economic offerings for experiences........................................................................................................ 225 5.3 The value theory of Ralph Barton Perry ........................................................ 227 5.3.1 Objects of interest: expectations included................................................ 228 5.3.2 Practical and non-practical interests as an alternative for rivalry and excludability ...................................................................................................... 231 6
  6. 6. Contents 5.3.3 Internally practical and non-practical investments.................................. 233 5.4 Roles for organizations in an experience context ........................................... 235 5.5 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 242CHAPTER 6 Research design ................................................................................. 250 6.1 Introduction .................................................................................................... 252 6.2 Epistemological orientation: Interpretivism.................................................... 253 6.3 Research strategy: From Case research to Grounded Theory to Phenomenology..................................................................................................... 257 6.4 Data collection and analysis ............................................................................ 260 6.4.1 Data collection ......................................................................................... 260 6.4.2 Data analysis ............................................................................................ 264 6.5 Evaluation ....................................................................................................... 266CHAPTER 7 Analysis of interviews on free choice learning experiences ................ 272 7.1 Introduction .................................................................................................... 274 7.2 Engagement .................................................................................................... 276 7.2.1 Talking about it........................................................................................ 278 7.2.2 Relation versus Calculation ..................................................................... 281 7.2.3 Being pulled by your feathers .................................................................. 288 7.2.4 Knitted cloth ............................................................................................ 293 7.2.5 Lessons to be learned related to engagement .......................................... 303 7.3 Direction ......................................................................................................... 306 7.3.1 Not getting on that bus ............................................................................ 307 7.3.2 The image of the sower............................................................................ 313 7.3.3 Here’’s a bike and go ................................................................................ 319 7.3.4 What movie you’’re in .............................................................................. 324 7.3.5 Lessons to be learned related to direction................................................ 334 7.4 Investment....................................................................................................... 338 7.4.1 Knowledge from out of the wall .............................................................. 339 7.4.2 Pressure-cooker ........................................................................................ 345 7
  7. 7. 7.4.3 Climbing frame ........................................................................................ 349 7.4.4 New oxygen ............................................................................................. 353 7.4.5 Lessons to be learned related to investment ............................................ 359 7.5 Conclusion ...................................................................................................... 364CHAPTER 8 Conclusion ......................................................................................... 366 8.1 Introduction .................................................................................................... 368 8.2 Theoretical foundation for the experience economy ...................................... 369 8.3 Offsetting the bias in the experience economy discourse in the field of educational experiences ........................................................................................ 373 8.3.1 Offsetting the bias in the experience economy discourse: attention for Erfahrung .......................................................................................................... 373 8.3.2 Offsetting the bias in the experience economy discourse: attention for deep effects................................................................................................................. 382 8.3.3 Offsetting the bias in the experience economy discourse: attention for Erfahrungs-investments: ................................................................................... 390 8.4 Implications of this research for experience organizations in general ............ 400 8.5 Discussion and recommendations for further research................................... 408Epilogue and Reflection ............................................................................................ 414Bibliography .............................................................................................................. 435English Summary ...................................................................................................... 473Nederlandse samenvatting ........................................................................................ 477APPENDIX A: Descriptions of experiences discussed during interviews................. 481APPENDIX B: Interview questions and themes....................................................... 483 8
  8. 8. ContentsFiguresFigure 1.1 –– Progression of Value (Pine and Gilmore, 1999, p.72) ...........................................25Figure 1.2 –– The objectivistic perspective within the three approaches of experience........................30Figure 1.3 –– Research model according to Verschuren and Doorewaard (1998) ...........................35Figure 1.4 –– Research outline.................................................................................................36Figure 2.1 –– Three processes that are part of dematerialization ..................................................47Figure 2.2 –– Dematerialization of economic offerings (after Pine & Gilmore, 1999)....................48Figure 2.3 –– Environment-centred definitions of experience, with distinction between core andconditions .............................................................................................................................60Figure 2.4 –– Effect-centred definitions of experience, with distinction between core and conditions...62Figure 2.5 –– Encounter-centred definitions of experience, with distinction between core and conditions...........................................................................................................................................64Figure 2.6 –– Three components of the definition of experience .....................................................65Figure 2.7 –– Aspects of experiences in a broader context of dematerialization................................66Figure 2.8 –– Scale of market entities (Shostack, 1977, p. 77) ...................................................70Figure 2.9 –– Goods-Services-Experience Continuum (O’’Sullivan & Spangler, 1998, p. 19) ........71Figure 2.10 –– The weight of objective features versus subjective responses in consumption experiences(Addis and Holbrook, 2001, p. 58) .......................................................................................83Figure 2.11 –– The emotion process (based on Desmet and Hekkert model of product emotions (Desmetet. al., 2001)) ......................................................................................................................86Figure 2.12 –– The activity dimension......................................................................................90Figure 2.13 –– Continuums of interactivity (Shedroff, 1994) ......................................................91Figure 2.14 –– The experience realms (Pine & Gilmore, 1999, p.30).........................................95Figure 2.15 –– Levels of intensity with which insideness and outsideness are experienced (based onRelph, 1976, pp. 50-55)......................................................................................................96Figure 2.16 –– Change in value exchanges between organization and individual ......................... 103Figure 3.1 –– Vicarious experiences are an in-between type of experiences, between primary andsecondary experiences. ......................................................................................................... 120 9
  9. 9. Figure 3.2 –– Primary experience versus mediated vicarious experience ....................................... 124Figure 3.3 –– Observational vicarious experiences ................................................................... 126Figure 3.4 –– Simulated and immersive vicarious experience ..................................................... 128Figure 3.5 –– Tree diagram of varieties of vicarious experience.................................................. 130Figure 3.6 –– Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb, 1984) ........................................................ 139Figure 3.7 –– The temporal difference between an Erlebnis and an Erfahrung............................ 145Figure 3.8 –– Differences in impact between meaningful and integrative experiences..................... 149Figure 3.9 –– The spectrum of experience-concepts .................................................................. 151Figure 4.1 –– Convergent and Divergent problems after Laurel’’s Flying Wedge (1993)............... 182Figure 4.2 –– Spectrum of experience concepts related to surface and deep approaches to learning... 190Figure 4.3 –– The Self-Determination Continuum showing types of motivation with their regulatorystyles and perceived loci of causality (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p.72) ........................................... 192Figure 4.4 –– Locus of causality for different concepts of experience ........................................... 195Figure 5.1 –– Customer Value Equation (Heskett et al, 1997, p.40) ....................................... 203Figure 5.2 –– Expectations of SEC- characteristics in different phases of the consumption process. 211Figure 5.3 –– Rivalry/ Excludability matrix ......................................................................... 213Figure 5.4 –– Dematerialization causes a shift towards non-rivalry........................................... 215Figure 5.5 –– Forces working for and against excludability ...................................................... 216Figure 5.6 –– Change in commerce because of growing role of individuals................................... 220Figure 5.7 –– Virtuous cycle of human capital (after Ratchford’’s (2001) theory of Human Capital)........................................................................................................................................ 224Figure 5.8 –– Focus on non-rivalry because of non-practical nature of experience-interests............ 232Figure 5.9 –– Modes of Encounter (based on Seamon, 1979) .................................................. 237Figure 5.10 –– Connection between first role for organizations and conceptualizations of experience........................................................................................................................................ 245Figure 5.11 –– Connection between second role for organizations and conceptualizations of experience........................................................................................................................................ 247Figure 5.12 –– Connection between third role for organizations and conceptualizations of experience........................................................................................................................................ 248 10
  10. 10. ContentsFigure 7.1 –– Main and subthemes emerged from interviews..................................................... 275Figure 7.2 –– Engagement and subthemes .............................................................................. 277Figure 7.3 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘Talking about it’’ ............................................................ 278Figure 7.4 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘Relation vs. calculation’’ .................................................. 283Figure 7.5 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘Being pulled by your feathers’’........................................... 289Figure 7.6 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘Knitted cloth’’ ................................................................. 294Figure 7.7 –– Lessons to be learned in relation to Engagement .................................................. 304Figure 7.8 –– Direction and subthemes .................................................................................. 307Figure 7.9 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘Not getting on that bus’’ ................................................... 308Figure 7.10 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘The image of the sower’’................................................. 314Figure 7.11 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘Here’’s a bike and go’’ .................................................... 320Figure 7.12 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘What movie you’’re in’’................................................... 325Figure 7.13 –– Lessons to be learned in relation to Direction .................................................... 335Figure 7.14 –– Investment and subthemes .............................................................................. 338Figure 7.15 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘Knowledge from out of the wall’’ ..................................... 340Figure 7.16 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘Pressure cooker’’ ............................................................ 346Figure 7.17 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘Climbing frame’’ ........................................................... 351Figure 7.18 –– Elements of subtheme ‘‘New oxygen’’ ................................................................ 354Figure 7.19 –– Lessons to be learned in relation to Investment .................................................. 359 11
  11. 11. TablesTable 1.1 –– Examples of progression of value towards experience economy (based on Pine & Gilmore,1998, p.97; 1999, p.1) .......................................................................................................26Table 2.1 –– Definitions of experience that are focused on what is experienced ...............................59Table 2.2 –– Definitions of experience that are focused on the effects for the individual ...................61Table 2.3 –– Definitions of experience that are focused on the encounter between individual andenvironment ..........................................................................................................................63Table 2.4 –– Overview of problems related to the three approaches of experience.......................... 106Table 3.1 –– Characteristics of the shift from secondary experiences to primary experiences........... 117Table 3.2 –– Examples of vicarious experiences and the determination of the type of experience ..... 131Table 3.3 –– Characteristics of the shift from primary experiences to emotional experiences........... 134Table 3.4 –– Ways of dealing with situations and the experiences that result from these .............. 141Table 3.5 –– Characteristics of the shift from Erlebnis to Erfahrung ......................................... 145Table 4.1 –– Human Motivations according to McGuire (1974, p. 172) ................................ 163Table 4.2 –– Psychological effects for different concepts of experience ......................................... 170Table 4.3 –– Definitions of experience that are focused on the effects for the individual ................ 171Table 4.4 –– Learning effects for different concepts of experience ............................................... 189Table 4.5 –– Spectrum of experience effects ............................................................................ 198Table 5.1 –– Problems related to the organizational perspective in the encounter-centred approach. 204Table 5.2 –– Insights from Perry’’s (1954) value theory related to the problems of the experience-encounter ........................................................................................................................... 228Table 5.3 –– Roles for organizations in the experience-economy ................................................ 235Table 6.1 –– Evaluation criteria for quantitative and qualitative research (based on Lincoln and Guba,1985) .............................................................................................................................. 267 12
  12. 12. ContentsTable 7.1 –– Seven categories of lessons for organizations dealing with experiences...................... 363Table 8.1 –– Theoretical foundation for the experience economy............................................... 372 13
  13. 13. P R E FAC E A N D 14
  14. 14. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSAn inspiring conversation isas stimulating as espressoand just as hard to sleep after.A F T E R A N N E M O R R OW L I N D B E R G H ,GIFT FROM THE SEA,1955 15
  15. 15. This dissertation contains the result of almost 10 years of studying the experienceeconomy. What started with a nagging feeling that there had to be more about thiseconomy than what was often described in theory and discussed and implemented inpractice has finally resulted in the answers I was looking for.The title of this dissertation, ‘‘For the love of experience’’, was not just chosen becauselove is often connected to the colour pink, so that I would have a good excuse to makea pink cover. Everyone who knows me also knows that I need no excuses to makeanything pink. Instead, the title was inspired by the name that the artist Damien Hirstgave to his diamond-covered skull: ‘‘For the love of God’’, allegedly based on aquestion his mother asked him: ““For the love of God, what are you going to do next?””‘‘For the love of God’’ has evoked strong emotional reactions and controversy thatreminded me of reactions to the experience economy. Reactions to the alleged sale ofthe work and the marketing around it spawned great controversy on the commercialnature of the art piece. The commercial focus of the experience economy has alsobeen something that has often been met with strong negative emotions, for examplewhen a piece of the public domain was fenced off to make it into a paid-forexperience. Reactions to the exploitation of a piece of a human body, in the name ofart, were in line with reactions to the alleged exploitation of human emotions in theexperience economy. Finally, the idea of extravagantly decorating something that initself is often considered ugly I recognized in the many efforts of organizations to‘‘funnify’’ or bling regular products and services and then call them experiences.The critique on the commercial and marketing interpretations of what experienceentails have often made me think seriously about dropping the term for once and forall. But every time in the end I decided not to do this. Notwithstanding the inflation ofthe word experience and the misuse of it in many cases, experience has been aroundfor longer than the people who don’’t use the word in a proper way. Experience isabout people, about meaning, about learning, about value. For the love of ‘‘experience’’ 16
  16. 16. Preface and Acknowledgementsgiving up on the term was not an option. Repairing the existing bias in thediscourse on experiences was.The ‘‘love’’ in ‘‘for the love of experience’’ also denotes one other important aspectof my fascination for the topic. Love doesn’’t only make the world go round, but itis also one of the things in life you can’’t control. It is my strong conviction thatexperiences cannot be produced, managed, sold or directed either. You canhowever do your best to support, facilitate, and help people in having theirexperiences. You can also do your best to hinder, prevent and ruin the experiences ofpeople. This lack of complete control is not new but somehow many people are stillunder the impression that they do have control over things like these. I always uselove to explain how I see it. You cannot force someone to love you; it is the loved onewho decides whether he or she will love you back. You can however do many thingsthat result in the loved one not loving you anymore. The same goes for experience. Itis the individual who decides whether he or she has an experience and what type ofexperience it is. But you can do all sorts of things to make sure the experience will nothappen or that it will be a bad experience.And obviously: I could have never stayed focused and inspired and enthusiastic aboutthis topic for all this time if it hadn’’t been for my love of experience.As I will explain in this dissertation, basically an experience is an encounter of anindividual with his or her environment. For the most part my experience was anencounter of me with my computers, books and articles, pens and paper and when Iwas completely lost a paintbrush and canvas, but fortunately my environmentconsisted also of many people that have made my experience into what it has been. Icannot name all, but I want to express my gratitude to some who have coloured myexperience brightly and made it definitely more fun and meaningful for me.I would like to start with Rik Maes, my promotor. I remember that at the beginningof this endeavor I thought that it would take me three years to finish. Unfortunately Iexpressed this thought, and not unconvincingly because I believe you even bet somewine on it. Sorry Rik, I owe you. But although it took me longer I always felt youtrusted that I would somehow, one day, finish and I appreciated your trusting way ofsupervising. I also want to say thank you for starting the European Centre for the 17
  17. 17. Experience Economy together with Joe Pine and Albert Boswijk, which ended upfinancing the first couple of years of this study and brought me in contact with manypeople who are working in the field of experience. You know that I was kind ofsurprised about, but also very grateful for the trust you had when you asked me tocoordinate the EMIM-program. This work gave me the opportunity to discover that Iam much more organized than I thought I was and to execute the insights I hadthanks to this research. The incredibly pleasant cooperation has given us theopportunity to get to know each other much better and I also want to thank your wifeSimone for the immense hospitality all those times we had meetings at your house. Iam more than glad that even though this dissertation is finished, we will continue towork together on making the world more meaningful and inspiring. And having a lotof fun along the way!I am still waiting for my pink ostrich feather boa though……Then there is Erik de Vries who in all these years I have always blamed for being theinstigator of this whole project so the least I can do is to finally thank him for this. Erikhas kind of been a linking pin for all sorts of events that have led up to today: ourshared interest in the service economy after I came back from Italy, the guest lectureson online service quality and flow experiences you allowed me to give in your courseat the University of Amsterdam, my filling in for you when Joe Pine became a visitingprofessor and came to present his book ‘‘The experience economy’’, and bringing meinto contact with Rik. I seriously think that the omission of just one of these thingswould have led to me never having done this research.The same thing of course goes for Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore. I have never met Jimbut have been assured that he exists, and I have had the chance to meet Joe Pine onseveral occasions during this period. If you hadn’’t coined the term experienceeconomy and written an article and book about it, I seriously doubt that thisdissertation would have ever seen the light of day. Often the thought crossed my mind:what if this experience economy proves to be a hype, a passing fad, what will I dothen? But I believe we can safely say that experiences are here to stay, which alsoshows from the update on your book ‘‘The experience economy’’ that you havepublished this summer. 18
  18. 18. Preface and AcknowledgementsPersons who have without a doubt changed my perspective on experience were ofcourse the alumni I interviewed who had completed their educational experienceat SIOO, Kaos Pilot or the EMIM-program. I have promised you anonymity butyou know who you are and I want to thank all of you for inviting me to yourhomes and offices and for the time you all took, up to 4 ½ hours (!), for telling meabout your experiences, sometimes on a very personal level for which I amincredibly grateful! I hope I have done justice to what you have taught me!Mijke, Anniek, Marjolijn and Edith: you were my checks and balances for the codingprocess of the interviews. Thanks for all the work you have put in this process, to givefeedback on the themes, and I wish you all the best with your own research. Hope tosee you soon in the Netherlands again!Then there are the recent and current participants in EMIM who I sincerely want tothank, together with all the people who work hard at making this a wonderfulprogram, like the organizers, teachers, the supervisors and coaches, the examinationcommittee and the Creative Board. You all have been a great inspiration for the waysin which many of the ideas and insights that were derived from the interviews wereimplemented in practice. My work often seems like leisure with all the fun, inspirationand beautiful moments we shared and it has been and still is a privilege to know youall. I hope, as I say at the end of chapter 8 that we will stay in touch for a long time tocome. And for those who haven’’t finished their Master Proof yet: chop chop!I am grateful to the students that have followed courses I have taught at theUniversity of Amsterdam. You can read about learning and teaching for the rest ofyour life but this will never teach you as much as the experience of standing in front ofa class of students and trying to motivate, inspire, enthuse and educate them. Before Inever knew that I would love teaching so much and that I was a proud owner of a‘‘juffenhart’’.Also the students of the Executive Courses of the European Centre for the ExperienceEconomy have been a great audience. They have helped me during the very firstyears of this research to understand the field and to develop my line of thinking. Allthe examples from practice have absolutely helped in getting my initial ideas in order. 19
  19. 19. I want to thank the PhD committee for their very valuable feedback on my work. Allhave, knowingly or unknowingly, influenced my thoughts and insights on experiencethrough the years: Prof. dr J.J. Boonstra in the context of change processes in whichthe individual is put in the centre of business, Dr A. Huizing in the context of howmeaning is shared in communities and the importance of immaterial values, Prof. drL. Introna in the context of phenomenology and technologically mediated vicariousexperiences, Prof. dr M.W. de Jong in the context of the service economy and Prof. drA. Klamer in the context of cultural and social values.Monique Beemster was the first designer who understood immediately what I meantwhen I told that I wanted ““a design for my cover, I don’’t know, something with pinkand experience””. She has not only designed the cover and everything that’’s pink inthis dissertation but has also relentlessly worked with me to finish the project. Youprobably know more about Word now than you would have liked to know but youhave succeeded in making the stressy completion of this experience a lot more relaxedfor me and I absolutely love the result, Monique!My friends deserve the credits for keeping me kind of sane this whole period. It’’s veryeasy to have all the fun sucked out of parties and events when there’’s someone in yourmidst who keeps explaining how a venue could be much more successful if they wouldonly change this or that, or who tries to recognize parts of theories everywhere. Butyou have always listened patiently to my brainwaves and acted like you completelyunderstood my enthusiasm about ““brilliant”” Eureka-moments, even when I didn’’tfully understood yet what they meant ;-).A special thanks goes to my paranymphs Patricia and Berry. Patricia has been mypartner in crime for almost 20 years when it comes to everything that is over the top,and has been the source of many very memorable experiences. Our ‘‘therapeuticpainting’’ session has been the cause of me grabbing my paintbrush and canvas everytime I got completely lost in the details of my research so you are partly responsiblefor the many Eureka-experiences that I have had. But above all, you are a wonderfulfriend, a beautiful person and I hope we’’ll enjoy many more over the top experiencestogether! 20
  20. 20. Preface and AcknowledgementsBerry has without a doubt been the most precious gift that the study of experiencehas given me. We met because of Zumba, got to know each other because of ourmutual interest in the world of experience and became friends because of all thehilarious fun and the many things we have in common. Thanks for always beingthere for me, for sharing your eye for detail and experience in the world of events,for helping me with my website, for not hanging up, for kickstarting many of mydays with a soundtrack, for sending me out of the Pijp and giving me directions inAmsterdam as if I were a tourist, for lack of words: thanks for being you andthanks for being my friend.Last but certainly not least I want to thank my family. Robert and Natasja who havealways been supportive of my endeavors and who have given me the great honour tobe the aunt and godmother of Rosan, Rolf and Noud, three little persons who puteverything in perspective. Finally I will have more time to spend with all of you! Andof course my parents who have had the patience while I was studying as well as whileI was doing this research, two periods in which I have absolutely not been worthy ofmy last name ;-). You definitely are the most supportive parents anyone can have. Iknow how proud you all are and I love you dearly.These and many more people, too many to name them all explicitly, have made myexperience unforgettable and I want to thank them all. I also kind of hope that someof them will be able to answer the question, to paraphrase Daniel Hirst’’s mother:For the love of God, what am I going to do next? Anna Snel July, 2011 21
  21. 21. C HAPT E R 1 The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmlypersuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him. L E O T O L S T OY, THE KINGDOM OF GOD, 1894 22
  22. 22. Researchoutline 23
  23. 23. 1.1 INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH OBJECTIVEWhat do education on autism1, a website for jeans2, tents on a camping site3, giftvouchers for bungee jumping4, funeral services5, a dinner in a hot air balloon6, a carshowroom7, an MRI scanner for children8, mascara9 and a venue for cookingworkshops10 have in common?The answer to this question is that these are some examples of what nowadays iscalled an ‘‘experience’’.In the last decade the term ‘‘experience’’ has proliferated in areas as diverse asmarketing, design, hospitality, education, architecture, tourism, human-computerinteraction, retail, museums, healthcare, landscaping and travel, and this list isexpanding all the time. What the uses of the term experience in these diverse areashave in common is that attention is growing for the role of the customer. Thisdevelopment has been termed the emergence of the ‘‘Experience Economy’’ in aHarvard Business Review article in 1998, by Joseph Pine II and Jim Gilmore. ““As1 Multimedia theatre ‘‘Het Hoofdkwartier’’ (http://www.rocvantwente.nl/ROC-Voorpagina/ROC-Nieuws/kennismaken-met-belevingswereld-autist)2 Jeans.com, the ultimate jeans experience (http://www.jeans.com/)3 Safaritent of Eurocamp(http://camping.eurocamp.nl/Deorganisatie/Persberichten/PersberichtMetEurocampopsafariinEuropa/tabid/1085/Default.aspx)4 Total Experience gifts vouchers (http://www.totalexperience.com.au/)5 Brandexperience in funeral industry (Rust zacht, plakje cake (Rest in peace, piece of cake) (Enklaar, 2008))6 CuliAir Hot Air Balloon Restaurant (http://www.culiair.nl)7 Peugeot Experience (http://www.peugeot.nl/peugeot-experience/)8 Philips’’ Panorama scanner in an ambient suite(http://www.healthcare.philips.com/phpwc/main/shared/assets/documents/about/events/2009/ecr/pdf/mr/mr_panorama_hfo_pediatrics.pdf)9 Max Factor Xperience volumising mascara (http://www.maxfactor.nl/nl/products/eyes/mascara/xperience/detail.aspx)10 Miele Inspirience Centre (https://www1.miele.nl/MIC/Pages/default.aspx) 24
  24. 24. 1 | Research outlinegoods and services become commoditized, the customer experiences that companiescreate will matter most”” (Pine & Gilmore, 1998, p. 97) (see figure 1.1). Differentiated Stage Relevant to Customization Experiences Deliver Services Competitive Needs of Position Make Customers Goods Commoditization Extract Commodities Undifferentiated Irrelevant to Market Pricing PremiumFigure 1.1 –– Progression of Value (Pine and Gilmore, 1999, p.72)Based on the argument that goods and services have become or are rapidly becomingcommoditized, Pine and Gilmore claim that companies need to focus more on thecustomer and offer experiences as distinct economic offerings to be able todifferentiate themselves from the competition. The raison d’’être of the experienceeconomy is then the need to decommoditize economic offerings, hereby maintainingor increasing profit margins and making sure that customers choose economicofferings not solely based on price.Attention for decommoditization and the customer’’s role in interactions withcompanies already increased when the economy shifted from an industrial economyto a service economy. In the industrial economy organizations offered utility to acustomer, who paid money in return. In the service economy on the other hand, theoffering to the customer did not consist of mere utility anymore, but also of theprocess of service delivery. In return, attention was not merely paid to the price of the 25
  25. 25. service, but also to other costs of acquiring the service, like the time and effort it takesto acquire the service. In the experience economy companies have to do even more.They have to create or ‘‘stage’’ memorable experiences and evoke emotions in theircustomers, and allegedly the customer will pay more money for these experiences.Two famous examples of this progression of value are shown in table 1.1.BIRTHDAY CAKE EXAMPLEEconomic Commodities Goods Services Experiencesofferings Making Betty Crocker Ordered cakes from ““Outsource”” the birthday cakes premixed the bakery or entire event to Chuck from scratch, ingredients grocery store E. Cheese’’s, the mixing farm Discovery Zone, the commodities Mining Company, or (flour, sugar, some other business butter, and eggs)Price Mere dimes Dollar or two $10 or $15 $100 or moreCOFFEE EXAMPLEEconomic Commodities Goods Services Experiencesofferings The coffee bean Manufacturer Brew the beans in a Five-star restaurant, grinds, packages diner, coffee-shop, espresso bar and sells the same bodega beans in a grocery storePrice One or two Between 5 and 25 50 cents to a dollar $2-$5 per cup cents a cup cents a cup per cupTable 1.1 –– Examples of progression of value towards experience economy (based on Pine & Gilmore, 1998,p.97; 1999, p.1)The increased attention for the customer can not only be recognized in theoriesreferring to experiences, but is also alluded to in literature in which the emergence ofa dream society, an attention economy, an empathy economy, an entertainmenteconomy and an emotion economy is described (e.g. Jensen, 1999; Davenport & Beck,2001; Nussbaum, 2005; Wolf, 1999; Maes & Parson, 2000), but in the end one can 26
  26. 26. 1 | Research outlinerecognize the growing attention for the customer’’s role as a result of the risk ofcommoditization as a basic principle of all these concepts.Although attention for experiences has increased enormously in the last decade,the idea that the customer and how he or she experiences things is a veryimportant aspect of consumption has existed for much longer. The sociologistGerhard Schulze wrote his book ‘‘Die Erlebnisgesellschaft’’, German for ‘‘theexperience society’’, in 1992. In this book he argues that current society is more andmore focused on experience and he describes what he calls ‘‘Erlebnis Rationalität’’(experience rationality), the growing focus of people on adapting their environment tobe able to have more or more intense experiences. In 1982, Hirschman and Holbrookwrote an article on hedonic consumption, or ““the multisensory, fantasy and emotiveaspects of one’’s experience with products”” (Hirschman & Holbrook, 1982, p. 92), inwhich they argued that the traditional, more utilitarian, perspective on consumerbehaviour was not sufficient anymore to explain how and why people consume whatthey do. In 1976, MacCannell’’s book The Tourist was published, in which hedescribed how contemporary tourists are on the continuous search for touristicexperiences. Toffler’’s book Future Shock, published in 1970, contains an entirechapter titled ‘‘The Experience Makers’’ which discusses the rise of whole industriesthat are dedicated to the production of experiences for people. In 1964 DanielBoorstin, in his book ‘‘The Image’’, described at length what the consequences forindividuals and society have been of the fact that we think we can fabricate andmarket experiences. And even as early as in 1959, Levy described the way in whichconsumption should be considered as a symbolic process because of the growingrecognition of the importance of the customer in this process.Although there exists a vast amount of articles and books on this development andalthough the attention for experiences in the economy can be traced back to morethan 50 years ago, the experience economy is still theoretically ill-founded. Besidesthis, there is also a strong bias in the experience economy discourse as I will explain.One of the reasons for the current bias in the experience economy discourse is thatscholars in the fields of marketing and business appear to only look at a part of whatexperience is. Based on an overview of definitions of the term experience in chapter 2,I argue that experiences in general, not just experiences as economic offerings, perdefinition consist of three essential interrelated elements: something in the 27
  27. 27. environment that is experienced, an individual who experiences and an encounter ofthe individual and his or her environment. One problem of the current experienceeconomy discourse in the fields of marketing and business is that scholars often seemto focus on mainly one of these three essential elements. Since a focus on one of theelements means that one is approaching experience from a specific angle, I want toargue that there are three approaches that can be distinguished in the currentdiscourse.One approach is focused on the ‘‘experienced being’’, or ‘‘what’’ it is that is experiencedin the individual’’s environment, for example events, activities, occurrences, things,and so on. I have named this approach the environment-centred approach. Thesecond approach is focused more on the ‘‘experiencer’’, and the effects that he or sheexperiences, hence I have called this approach the effect-centred approach. The thirdapproach is focused on the characteristics of the encounter of the individual and his orher environment. This approach is called the encounter-centred approach. A reviewof current literature on the experience economy in chapter 2 shows that scholars inthe fields of marketing and business usually focus on one of these three specificelements and therefore take a specific approach as their basis. This bias does notnecessarily lead to problems if one consciously makes a specific choice for a specificelement and approach, and is aware of the consequences of this choice. However,given the theoretically ill-founded nature of the subject, one may doubt whether thischoice is always made intentionally. One first has to be aware that there is in fact abias in one’’s perspective, but after this recognition one can deal with it. ““Fortunatelyfor serious minds, a bias recognized is a bias sterilized”” (Taylor, 1855).Although the choice for one approach or the other may have unintendedconsequences, this still does not fully explain my argument that the current bias in theexperience economy discourse is problematic. An additional problem is that evenwithin the specific approaches marketing and business scholars take a limiting andquite objectivist view. Scholars usually theorize about the experience economy froman organizational perspective. The assumption that decommoditization is the mainreason for the emergence of an experience economy, can clearly be recognized in thecurrent experience economy discourse. This causes a search for new ways to addvalue to economic offerings, so that one can differentiate one’’s offerings from those of 28
  28. 28. 1 | Research outlinethe competition. Since the assumption seems to be that it is always theorganization that has to add value to the economic offerings, the organizationalperspective is highly dominant in current literature. To balance the experienceeconomy discourse one should also take into account the individual’’s perspective.The individual plays a decisive role in experiences and if this role is neglected bytaking solely the organizational perspective, organizations run the risk of not offeringexperiences to their customers but mere adapted goods and services.In the environment-centred approach for instance, the view of what is experiencedaccording to marketing and business scholars is often restricted to treating experiencesas if they are products or environments with objective qualities that can be producedand managed. The objectivist perspective can be recognized in this approach in manyways. Experiences are staged, produced, sold, managed etc., as if they are separateobjects in the individual’’s environment. In the effect-centred approach, the marketingand business scholars’’ focus lies mainly on how hedonic effects can or should beinvoked and managed. Also here one can notice a clear objectivist perspective, sincethe effects, be they for example emotions, feelings or moods, are dealt with as if theyare entities separate from the individual that can be given or sold to him or her.Thirdly, the role of the individual in the encounter-centred approach in marketingand business literature is primarily restricted to the investment of money. Theencounter is often described as a transaction between an organization that functionsas ‘‘experience-provider’’ and a customer, in which the organization gives something ofvalue to the customer and the customer gives something of value, usually money, inreturn. The way in which these ‘‘somethings-of-value’’ are discussed resembles adiscussion of objects, separate from the organization and separate from the individual,that are transacted. Again one can recognize the objectivist perspective. In thediscussion of the three approaches the objectivist perspective will be explained inmore detail.The bias in the experience economy discourse thus not only refers to scholars focusingon one of the three elements of experiences by taking a specific approach to thesubject, but even within a specific approach in literature usually a quite objectivisticview is taken on only one conceptualization or effect or value that is selected anddiscussed. In figure 1.2 the bias in the experience discourse is depicted by illustrating 29
  29. 29. how usually the choice for one approach of experience, and within that approach forone objectivistic aspect, results in a very restricted focus on what experience entails. Experience Focus on one Environment- Effect-centred Encounter- approach centred centred Separate entities Separate entities Separate entities that the parties Objectivistic in the that can be sent involved in the individual’’s to an individual perspective or managed as experience environment transact with objects each otherFigure 1.2 –– The objectivistic perspective within the three approaches of experienceAgain, the focus on just one aspect of one approach does not have to pose a problemfor marketing and business scholars, as long as they are aware of the fact that they arediscussing only a part of what experience entails. But without a clear overview of whatexperience is and means, of the complete experience economy discourse, one runs therisk of thinking that one has covered the whole subject, potentially resulting ininappropriate choices related to the three elements of experience.This brings me to the statement of the objective of my research:The objective of my research is to offset the current bias in the experience economydiscourse, by constructing a sound and integrative theoretical foundation for theexperience economy from the individual’’s perspective. 30
  30. 30. 1 | Research outlineThe construction of a sound theoretical foundation for the experience economyhelps to see which options are available to choose from when one needs to choosea specific focus. However, the objectivistic focus on separate entities is alwaysproblematic, since the objectivistic perspective is not a useful perspective whentrying to gain insight into experiences. Knowledge according to objectivists should““adequately describe some objective reality”” (Jonassen, 1991, p. 7). However,experiences are not parts of ‘‘some objective reality’’ but constructions in a socialreality as I intend to make clear in this research, and knowledge of experience willtherefore not come about based on the same principles that are used for studying the‘‘objective reality’’ of objectivists. Where objectivists believe that they can gainknowledge on the world by adhering to the principles of positivism, I consider theseprinciples not useful for constructing a sound theoretical foundation for theexperience economy. As Lee (1991) states: ““people, and the physical and socialartifacts that they create, are fundamentally different from the physical realityexamined by natural science”” (p. 347). People attach meanings to what theyexperience and these meanings may vary from one person to the other. In this sense,the way knowledge can be gained on experience is via interpretation of the meaningsindividuals attach to their experience. For gaining this knowledge one cannot rely onthe same principles of positivism that are used for natural science, but one needsdifferent principles. To construct a sound and integrative theoretical foundation forthe experience economy I will therefore explicitly take into account knowledge onexperience derived from disciplines outside of the fields of marketing and business,which adhere more to interpretivistic principles.By constructing a theoretical overview of experience solely based on existing literature,I will not yet have attained my goal of offsetting the current bias in the experienceeconomy discourse. Assuming that I would have, would mean making the mistake ofdiscussing the subject from an outside point of view without taking into account theactual individual’’s experience. The personal nature of experience requires one to tryto approximate the perspective of individuals themselves. They are the only ones whotruly know what they have experienced, the experts on their own experience. Itherefore have chosen to interview 15 individuals who have had a ‘‘free choicelearning experience’’. The analysis of these so-called existential-phenomenologicalinterviews, in which the interviewees are in fact treated as the experts, renders insightinto the main themes that the interviewees themselves deem important in the context 31
  31. 31. of their experience. By combining these insights with the insights that were derivedfrom the presented literature on experience, I not only attain my objective ofoffsetting the current bias in the experience economy discourse, by constructing asound and integrative theoretical foundation for the experience economy, but I alsoattain my objective of constructing this theoretical foundation from the individual’’sperspective.1.2 RESEARCH QUESTIONSTo attain my research objective presented in paragraph 1.1, I will need to answerseveral research questions. Since the theoretical foundation that I intend to constructin this research will not be the first theory that has been constructed for theexperience economy, I will first answer the question ““What is the current state ofaffairs regarding theory on the experience economy?””Based on an analysis of a varied range of definitions and theories of experience Idistinguish three elements that are essential for an experience to exist and threerelated approaches of experience: the environment-, effect-, and encounter-centredapproaches. I will explain what these approaches of experience entail and what theirrespective foci are. I will also describe and explain the bias I argue that eachrespective approach by itself suffers from and the gaps in knowledge caused by thisbias in chapter 2. The way that business and marketing scholars have so far theorizedabout experiences, based on the assumption that the reason for the emergence of theexperience economy is the risk of commoditization of economic offerings, has causeda quite restricted perspective on the concept of experience, on the effects ofexperiences and on the values that are invested in experiences, resulting in the biasthat I intend to offset in this research.In chapter 3 I will answer the question ““How can experiences be conceptualized froman individual’’s perspective?”” The answer to this question will help to see experiencesin a broader perspective than the organizational perspective taken by marketing andbusiness scholars in the environment-centred approach. This organizationalperspective is the main reason why experiences are treated as manageable economic 32
  32. 32. 1 | Research outlineofferings as I will explain in chapter 2. By reconceptualizing experiences from anindividual’’s perspective and by making use of the extensive amount of literature onexperiences that is available in disciplines outside of the field of marketing andbusiness literature, a spectrum of experience-concepts can be constructed whichgives insight in different conceptualizations of experience and how these arerelated. This spectrum is intended to increase awareness of the current bias in theexperience economy discourse in terms of the conceptualizations of experience and tohelp in offsetting this bias.Chapter 4 addresses the excessive focus on the management and production ofpredetermined hedonic effects that characterizes the effect-centred approach toexperiences in business and marketing literature. In this approach it is assumed thatindividuals are not looking for functional benefits anymore but that they desirehedonic effects. A further assumption is that the organization’’s role is to produce andmanage these effects. By referring to literature from various disciplines outside of thefields of business and marketing, I want to give insight into various other potentialeffects of experiences and into the roles that organizations can play in the emergenceof these effects, since the question is whether effects can be produced or managed atall. The answer to the question ““Which kinds of effects can experiences have from anindividual’’s perspective?”” will broaden the perspective to incorporate effects beyondimmediate hedonic effects, and it will clarify the roles that individuals andorganizations play in experiences. The result of this chapter will be a spectrum ofexperience effects that is intended to increase awareness of the current bias in theexperience economy discourse in terms of the different effects that experiences canhave and to help offset this bias.Question 4, ““Which types of values do individuals invest in the experience?””addresses the myopic vision that is taken by marketing and business scholars on therole that individuals play in experiences. Their primary focus is the role oforganizations in determining which values individuals should invest during theexperience, hereby neglecting values that individuals invest in the experience beyondfinancial values. Individuals invest more than just financial values in the experience.They are active participants in the creation of value, and not merely passivelyabsorbing whatever they are confronted with and have paid for. The neglect of theactive role of individuals and of the different values they invest is becoming even more 33
  33. 33. problematic nowadays because of many developments that allow individuals tobecome more active than they have ever been. This does not mean that organizationshave no role in the experience anymore, but their roles will change. Three roles fororganizations in the experience economy will be presented and explained in chapter 5.The different view on values and the changes in the roles of organizations andindividuals alike in the experience economy increase awareness of the current bias inthe experience economy discourse related to the values that individuals invest and areintended to help in offsetting this bias.These first four questions represent the theoretical aspect of this research, the currentstate of affairs in the marketing and business domain of experience literature (question1) and the concepts, effects and values of experience from a multidisciplinarytheoretical perspective (questions 2, 3 and 4). Most of these multidisciplinaryperspectives on the concepts, effects and values of experience contain the individual’’sperspective. However, for the construction of a truly sound and integrative theoreticalfoundation for the experience economy from the individual’’s perspective I argue thatincorporating the opinion of real individuals is necessary. For this reason the researchalso contains an empirical component in the form of 15 existential-phenomenologicalinterviews that were held with individuals who have experienced a free choicelearning experience. The choices underlying the research design and methodologicalaspects of the interviewing process and analysis will be presented in chapter 6. Inchapter 7, an answer will be provided to the question ““Which themes emerge fromthe existential phenomenological interviews on individuals’’ free choice learningexperiences?””Finally, in chapter 8 the themes and insights from the existential-phenomenologicalinterviews will be confronted with the theoretical insights from chapters 3 through 5to answer the question ““How can the insights on experience derived from thetheoretical analysis in chapters 3 through 5 and the insights on free choice learningexperiences derived from the existential-phenomenological interviews be related inorder to construct a sound and integrative theoretical foundation for the experienceeconomy?””By combining the collected theoretical and empirical insights on experience, I will notonly have constructed a theoretical foundation for the experience economy that is 34
  34. 34. 1 | Research outlinesound and integrative in the sense that it incorporates the three essential elementsof experience by combining the three different approaches of experience, but thetheoretical foundation will also be constructed based on the individual’’sperspective,Figure 1.3 –– Research model according to Verschuren and Doorewaard (1998)since not only in the selection of theoretical insights the individual’’s perspective hasbeen an important criterion, but also because the insights from the interviewsrepresent the meanings that individuals have given to their own experience. Byanswering the abovementioned 6 questions, which are depicted graphically in theresearch model in figure 1.3, I intend to attain my research objective of offsetting thecurrent bias in the experience economy discourse, by constructing a sound andintegrative theoretical foundation for the experience economy from the individual’’sperspective. 35
  35. 35. Before presenting the research context in chapter 2, I would like to present thestructure of this thesis and the academic, professional and societal contributions I planto make.1.3 STRUCTURAL OUTLINE OF THE THESISThe thesis before you, in short, has been structured as graphically depicted in figure1.4. Chapters Chapter 6: 3, 4 & 5: Existential- Experience spectrum phenomenological with insights into: interviews Concepts (ch.3) Effects (ch.4) Values (ch.5) Chapter 2: Chapter 7: 3 approaches in current Themes emerged literature on experience: from interviews: Environment centred Engagement Effect centred Direction Encounter centred Chapter 8: Investment Sound and integrative theoretical foundation for experience economy from the individual’s perspectiveFigure 1.4 – Research outlineThis figure will be presented before each chapter as a point of reference. After thisintroductory chapter I will present the research context in chapter 2. There are 3assumptions that underlie my view on experience: 1) experiences are a sign of adematerializing economy, 2) there are per definition three essential elements thatconstitute an experience and therefore also three ways in which experiences can be 36
  36. 36. 1 | Research outlineapproached, and 3) the perceived risk of commoditization of economic offeringshas led business and marketing scholars to treat experiences in an objectivistic way,which has limited their view on the concept of experience, the effects that canresult from experiences and the values that are invested in the experience-encounter. These issues I will explore as the problems related to respectively theenvironment-centred, the effect-centred and the encounter-centred approaches. Inchapters 3, 4 and 5 I will propose a solution to these problems by offering a broaderinterpretivistic perspective on experience. In chapter 3 I will broaden the perspectiveon experience by presenting a spectrum of experience-concepts, which shows that thecurrent focus of scholars on experiences as objects, events or activities in theindividual’’s environment with objective qualities that can be produced and managed,is a too limited way of viewing experiences. In chapter 4 I will focus on the fact thatalthough current literature on experiences within the effect-centred approach ismainly concerned with the management of hedonic effects, one can question whethermanaging effects is at all possible. Furthermore, hedonic effects can be criticized asbeing just one sort of potential effects that can result from having an experience. I willtherefore conclude this chapter with a spectrum of experience-effects. In chapter 5 Iwill explore what happens during the encounter of the individual and his or herenvironment, and what consequences the specific characteristics of experiences havefor the exchange of values in this encounter. In current literature the perspective onthe role of the individual in the encounter is usually limited to him or her investingfinancial value but I will show that there are various other values that the individualmay invest and that this requires a change in the roles that organizations play in theencounter. The broader perspective on experience, resulting from chapters 3 through5, will result in an overview of experience-concepts, - effects and ––encounters whichcan be used to make more sensible decisions when working in the experienceeconomy.After the theoretical exploration of the conceptualizations, effects and values ofexperiences in chapters 3 through 5, I will introduce the empirical section of myresearch design in chapter 6. To construct a foundation for the experience economyfrom the individual’’s perspective, I will have to integrate the individual’’s perspective. Iwill explain why I have chosen for existential-phenomenological interviews to doexactly this and present my research design for the empirical part of this research.The analysis of the interview data is presented in chapter 7, resulting in three main 37
  37. 37. themes that have emerged from the interviews. Finally, I will confront the theoreticalinsights from chapters 3 through 5 with the empirical insights from chapter 7 toconstruct a sound and integrative theoretical foundation for the experience economyfrom the individual’’s perspective with the aim of offsetting the current bias in theexperience economy discourse, which is the objective of this research.1.4 CONTRIBUTIONSThe objective of any study is to make a contribution to knowledge. In terms of Lockeand Golden-Biddle’’s (1997) distinction between two different possible types ofcontributions, the contribution of this study falls under the problematization of the so-called ““intertextual field””, or the existing body of literature and publications that areseen as relevant to the study. The intertextual field can be problematized in threeways: incompleteness, inadequacy and incommensurability.When gaps are identified in the existing literature (incompleteness problematization),when different, relevant, and important perspectives are not sufficiently incorporatedin existing literature (inadequacy problematization) or when claims are made that areinaccurate in the existing body of literature (incommensurability problematization),one can make a contribution to knowledge by solving these limitations. I will refer tothe different types of problematizations in the following discussion of the contributionsthat I intend to make with this study. I have grouped the intended contributions interms of my research objective.““A sound and integrative theoretical foundation for the experience economy……””Although the term ‘‘experience economy’’ was coined more than a decade ago (Pineand Gilmore, 1998) and references to experiences as economic offerings have beenpresent for over half a century, to this date there is still no overarching theoreticalfoundation for what this so-called experience economy entails. In chapter 2 I willpresent a variety of theories on experience and the experience economy and showhow confusing and often even contradictory the existing body of knowledge is at thismoment. The lack of a sound theoretical foundation for the experience economymakes it difficult to do research in this area and to build upon the existing body of 38
  38. 38. 1 | Research outlineresearch and literature. If different scholars adhere to different definitions orconcepts of experience, it becomes problematic to compare the different theoriesand research results. One of the contributions I therefore intend to make is to offersuch an overview, of how the experience economy can be conceptualized,resulting in an intuitive vocabulary to be used by scholars who are interested instudying the experience economy. This contribution clearly belongs under theincompleteness problematization, since the existing body of knowledge on theexperience economy suffers from a lack of an overarching theoretical foundation ofwhat the experience economy entails.““……from the individual’’s perspective……””One of the problems I see in the existing body of literature on the experienceeconomy is the dominant organizational perspective. Although the role of theindividual is often heralded to become ever more crucial for success, the perspectivefrom which many theories on experience economy have been written is still that ofthe organization and not that of the individual as I will show in chapter 2. Thisdominance of the organizational perspective may have been unproblematic fortheories on products that are produced in a factory at a distance from the individualbut since the individual is involved in the experience his or her perspective necessarilyhas to be taken into account. By constructing a theoretical foundation for theexperience economy from the individual’’s perspective I make a contribution relatedto the inadequacy problematization of the intertextual field since I notice that thisdifferent, relevant, and important perspective has up to now not been sufficientlyincorporated in existing literature on the experience economy. Yet anothercontribution I want to make with this study is more methodological in nature. Thereis still a dominant quantitative perspective in research within the fields of business andmarketing although there are signs of a growing call for more qualitative or at leastmixed-method-designs (Koller, 2008). The growing importance of the customerexperience and concepts like meaning and symbolism in these fields may be a reasonfor this. By conducting qualitative interviews in this study I want to contribute to theknowledge on how qualitative research methods can be used to incorporate theindividual’’s perspective in the context of research on the experience economy.““……to offset the current bias in the experience economy discourse.”” 39
  39. 39. The main motivation for wanting to construct a sound and integrative theoreticalfoundation for the experience economy from the individual’’s perspective, is that Iwant to offset the current bias in the experience economy discourse. As I have statedin short above and as I will explain more in depth in chapter 2 there are threeessential components in every experience: something that is experienced, someonewho experiences and the encounter between these two. Three approaches can berecognized in the existing body of knowledge on the experience economy: one thatmainly focuses on the something, one that mainly focuses on the someone and onethat mainly focuses on the encounter, or the environment-centred approach (focusedon the something), the effect-centred approach (focused on the someone) and theencounter-centred approach (focused on the encounter). Since all three componentsare equally important for an experience to happen, a focus on one of these means thatthe other two are lacking. Claims about experiences based on notions of only onecomponent are then bound to be incomplete or even inaccurate, when one is notaware of the fact that one has a mere partial and thus biased, view on experience. Byconstructing a theory that incorporates all three components this bias becomesexplicit and can be offset.Besides the bias in the experience economy discourse because of the focus on only onecomponent of experiences, also within the approaches there exists a bias in thediscourse. As I will thoroughly discuss in chapter 2, the discourse in existing literatureon the experience economy is biased towards a quite objectivistic view, in which theorganization, and not the individual, is in command. I will discuss the contribution Iwish to make with this study for each approach specifically.Literature belonging to the environment-centred approach is biased towards a view ofexperiences as economic offerings with objective features that can be produced byorganizations. However, as will be discussed in chapter 3, experiences are not objectsthat can be produced and many instances of what in current literature and practiceare called experiences are not experiences at all. Without a clear understanding ofwhat experiences are and what types of experiences can be distinguished, there willremain confusion in the experience economy discourse. If non-experiences andexperiences are grouped together under the name experience, then inaccurate claimsabout experience are bound to be made. A contribution that I want to make in thecontext of this incommensurability problematization is that I want to present a 40
  40. 40. 1 | Research outlinespectrum of different intuitive and logically related experience conceptualizationsthat will help the discourse on the experience economy.Literature belonging to the effect-centred approach is biased towards a view ofexperiences as hedonic effects that can be managed. In chapter 4 I argue that 1)the claim that the effects in individuals can be managed is inaccurate since there isa process of meaning making involved and 2) the dominant focus on hedonic effectscauses one to neglect other potentially valuable effects. Especially longer-lasting effectsthat are more difficult to achieve fall short of attention. For the experience economydiscourse it is important that these inaccurate claims are addressed and an alternativeand broader perspective is offered since much of the critique on the the experienceeconomy has to do with its alleged focus on the management of hedonic effects andthe resulting so-called Disneyfication of society. By presenting an overview of differenteffects that experiences can have, the potential broader scope of the experienceeconomy becomes apparent.Literature belonging to the encounter-centred approach is biased towards a view ofexperiences as products that are sold to individuals in exchange for money. However,claims made based on this view of experience are bound to be inaccurate since theneglect of other values causes a faulty understanding of how individuals dealing withimmaterial products like experiences behave. For example: the investment of moneyin exchange for a product is often seen as detrimental to the perceived value by acustomer, but the investment of other types of values can be beneficial for theperceived value. A mere focus on the money exchange would cause a neglect of thesebeneficial effects of value investments during experiences. Also, when immaterialproducts are involved, as is more and more the case in our society, a focus on moneycauses one to neglect other types of business models in which other types of valueinvestments are dominant. A societal effect of the dominant focus on charging moneyfor experiences that is often alluded to is the fact that this may come at the cost of thepublic domain. As can be seen, and as will be explained in depth in chapter 5, theview of experiences as products that are sold to individuals in exchange for moneycauses one to have a very narrow, and even inaccurate view of the roles of individualsin the experience. By investigating how the roles of the individual and theorganization during an experience can be perceived based on a broader meaning ofvalue than just financial value, I want to contribute to a better understanding of thevalue exchanges in the experience economy. 41
  41. 41. C HAPT E R 2 Where wise actions are the fruit of life, wise discourse is the pollination. B RYA N T H . M C G I L L , A G I F T- G I V E R ’ S M A N I F E S T O , 201142
  42. 42. Researchcontext Chapters Chapter 6: 3, 4 & 5: Existential- Experience spectrum phenomenological with insights into: interviews Concepts (ch.3) Effects (ch.4) Values (ch.5) Chapter 2: Chapter 7:3 approaches in current Themes emergedliterature on experience: from interviews: Environment centred Engagement Effect centred Direction Encounter centred Chapter 8: Investment Sound and integrative theoretical foundation for experience economy from the individual’s perspective 43
  43. 43. 2.1 INTRODUCTIONExperiences have been a highly debated topic of discussion in marketing and businessliterature for more than a decade, but there is still much ambiguity on whatexperiences are and what their value is or could be. The problems that, as I will argue,originate from the way in which business and marketing scholars have dealt with theconcept of experience, have motivated me to look beyond the boundaries of businessand marketing literature to find out how experiences can be conceptualized and whatthe implications of a broader concept of experience are for organisations andindividuals. The goal of this chapter is twofold: 1) to get the reader acquainted withthe conceptualizations of experience as they are described in marketing and businessliterature, and 2) to present the reader with the logic which underlies my researchobjective, which is: to offset the current bias in the experience economy discourse, byconstructing a sound and integrative theoretical foundation for the experienceeconomy from the individual’’s perspective. To attain these goals I will answer my firstresearch question: ““What is the current state of affairs regarding theory on theexperience economy?”” since the answer to this question will not only clarify thediscourse on the experience economy of scholars in the fields of business andmarketing, but it will also show the gaps that I argue are present in the currentexperience economy discourse.The reason that I have decided to use multiple disciplines in this research lies in thefact that the greater part of contemporary literature on the experience economyoriginates from business and marketing scholars. These seem to have patentedexperiences as new economic offerings. However, to my knowledge, there exists noclear overview of the experience economy discourse and a broader perspective fromwhich these commercial experiences can be approached is lacking. Because of theamount of different examples of new economic offerings and different interpretationsof the term experience, this overview and broader perspective are needed to be ableto arrive at a clear discourse on what the value of experiences is or might be, fororganisations as well as for individuals. 44
  44. 44. 2 | Research contextFirst of all, in paragraph 2.2, I will give an overview of economic developmentsthat have led to an increased focus on immaterial consumption and the ways inwhich this dematerialization is expressed in the market; experiences as economicofferings being one of its expressions. To this end, the concept of market has beenextended because of the increasing commodification of cultural, social andpsychological resources, as I will explain in this chapter. The main reason given inliterature on the experience economy for the increasing interest in immaterial aspectsof consumption, but also the immaterial aspects of work, design and other areas, is therisk of commoditization. If offerings become commoditized, this means they are sowidely available and interchangeable, that the only differentiating factor that acustomer can use as a basis for his choice is price. Commoditization thus leads tocompetition based on price, which in the end will lead to lower profit margins for theorganizations involved. By finding new immaterial differentiating factors,organizations hope to escape commoditization and maintain or even increase profitmargins.From the broader context of which experiences are part I will then move on toparagraph 2.3 in which I will zoom in on the concept of experience and how it can beapproached. Based on a review of definitions of experience I conclude that there arethree approaches of the concept, related to three essential components of experiences.These different approaches are the environment-centred approach, the effect-centredapproach, and the encounter-centred approach.In paragraph 2.4 I will discuss how experiences are dealt with in current business andmarketing literature and show how this literature can basically be subdivided into thethree approaches of experience mentioned above. Based on the distinction betweenthese three approaches in literature I will explain what I see as important gaps in thecurrent theories on experiences within the fields of business and marketing. Thesegaps are caused by a biased perspective of business and marketing scholars:- for the environment-centred approach: by focusing primarily on the role oforganizations in producing experiences as economic offerings with the ‘‘right’’objective features and hereby neglecting the variety of different conceptualizations ofexperience. 45
  45. 45. - for the effect-centred approach: by focusing primarily on the role of organizations inmanaging and producing predetermined hedonic effects, hereby neglecting the role ofthe individual and the existence of other effects, and- for the encounter-centred approach: by focusing primarily on the role oforganizations in determining which values should be invested during the experience-encounter, hereby neglecting values that individuals invest in the encounter beyondfinancial values.The dominant focus on the role of the organization and the resulting gaps in theorycan be related to the search for ways to escape commoditization, as I will explain foreach of the three approaches. The exploration and explanation of the three gaps intheory can be found in paragraph 2.4. Finally I will show how the gaps in the threetheoretical approaches and my research objective are connected.2.2 EXPERIENCES AS A SIGN OF A DEMATERIALIZING ECONOMYIn business and marketing literature, there is a noticeable growing interest in thesubject of dematerialization. Already in the nineteen eighties, Herman, Ardekani andAusubel (1989) began to explore the question of whether the dematerialization ofhuman societies was under way. At that time, dematerialization was defined primarilyas the decline over time in the weight of materials used in industrial end products orin the ““embedded energy”” of the products. More broadly, dematerialization referredto the absolute or relative reduction in the quantity of materials required to serveeconomic functions (Herman, Ardekani & Ausubel, 1989). A review of differentdefinitions of dematerialization shows that dematerialization is taking place in variousareas. Three of these areas, digitization, eco-efficiency and the focus on immaterialaspects of consumption, are receiving much attention in literature.TYPES OF DEMATERIALIZATIONDigitization means the replacement of a physical or substantial item with electronicsignals. By using ICT, formerly physical objects are transformed into non-tangibledigital data. Especially in money markets this development can clearly be recognized 46
  46. 46. 2 | Research context(Rifkin, 2000), but dematerialization is happening in every area where objects arebeing produced or used, that can be translated into bits and signals. Thisdigitization, or virtualization, also has consequences for the relationships betweenpeople, e.g. telecommunication services can, within limits, substitute for physicalpresence (Hilty & Ruddy, 2000). Digitization Immaterial aspects of Eco-efciency consumption Dematerialization of the economyFigure 2.1 –– Three processes that are part of dematerializationEco-efficient product design is a second area in which dematerialization is a heavilydebated topic. In this area the goals are the optimization of processes and products asregards their material and energy efficiency and the redesign of products with the aimto reduce the necessary resource input or to increase the products’’ life cycle. Byinventing new ways to use resources more efficiently and to recycle them, solutionsare searched by taking into consideration the finiteness of material resources and thereduction of waste in the world (Hilty & Ruddy, 2000).A third definition of dematerialization has to do with the focus on the immaterialaspects of consumption. This development could already be seen in the replacementof the agrarian and industrial economy by the service economy, where intangibleprocesses and activities performed by service providers became more important in 47

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